Rep. Liz Cheney continues working for agriculture and Wyomingites in Washington
“There was a whole series of formats the Obama war on the West took,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told the Wyoming Livestock Roundup in a recent interview.
Cheney discussed a wide variety of issues Congress has committed to work on to solve challenges for American people, but she also noted her efforts are often confronted by backlash from liberal Congressmen who represent constituents with far different priorities.
“In addition to opposition from Democrats, we often face opposition from some within our own party who may not face these challneges in their districts,” she continued. “We have to be effective and aggressive in informing my colleagues about the importance of our reform efforts.”
“It’s incumbent on us to explain why conservative values are necessary to let people use the land the way it is intended to be used,” Cheney explained.
A major legislative concern for producers has been requirements for electronic logging devices (ELD).
“We need to make sure we don’t have a situation where people in the ag industry – those hauling livestock and rodeo kids – aren’t caught up in this rule like they shouldn’t be,” said Cheney. “We’re working across the board to make sure there aren’t negative impacts on ag.”
Cheney continued, while guidance has been issued by the Wyoming Department of Transportation, concerns about unintended impacts are still present.
“We’re working on the ELD, and it’ll stay at the top of the list to make sure we get a solution that works for us in Wyoming,” Cheney said.
A 90-day extension was issued by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) on March 13, providing temporary relief for the third time until Congress can make permanent changes.
Cheney comments, “If the rules and regulations are implemented, it’ll be a tremendous hardship.”
Public lands bills
A suite of bills related to public lands are also being considered in Washington, D.C., all of which would affect Wyoming’s producers.
Cheney noted she continues to work against the Recreation Not Red Tape legislation that would, for example, authorize the Secretary of the Interior to unilaterally set aside lands or limit use of public lands.
“I understand the desire to do something that is bipartisan but not at the expense of our ag industry,” she explained. “That’s the last thing we should be doing. We need to protect the ag industry, and I’m concerned the current Recreation Not Red Tape bill fails to do this.”
Cheney emphasized, “We have to be sure we don’t put the objective of bipartisanship above everything else, so we’re working hard to protect multiple use.”
The ability to unilaterally set land aside for any single purpose should be avoided, she added, commenting that local input is essential in land planning.
Cheney is also an original cosponsor of a bill introduced in mid-March by Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) and Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) that exempts air emissions from animal waste at farms from notice requirements and penalties.
The Congresswoman said this legislation will clear up the congressional intent of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980.
“CERCLA was not intended to create burdensome regulations on family-owned farms,” Cheney said. “It was created for the cleanup and removal of industrial chemical toxic waste dumps and spills.”
She also signed a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Md.) with several other members of Congress urging the passage of this legislation.
“It’s important that hard-working farmers are not facing additional troublesome regulations and it’s imperative that the Speaker understand this is an issue that affects states across the country,” Cheney said.
A second effort relating to public lands relates to Wilderness Study Areas (WSA), which have been the subject of the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI) in Wyoming.
“Many county commissioners and citizens across the state have asked that we move forward to clarify the status of WSAs,” Cheney explained. “Any action in D.C. will be guided by the county commissioners and their requests.”
Nearly every county has responded to requests from Rep. Cheney’s offices about their timelines, and she said, “For the most part, counties believe they can come up with recommendations quickly.”
“I’d like to introduce a bill in the next couple of months for the fate of these WSAs,” Cheney continued. “I think the involvement of everyone – including environmental groups – will help us in Washington to pass this bill, but at the same time, I think there has been some delay of the process by these groups. We ought not let that continue.”
“I’m interested in moving quickly to get this issue resolved,” she added.
WSAs have been in limbo for more than 20 years, and while WSAs on Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-managed lands have been reviewed with recommendations for release or permanent designation as wilderness areas, Forest Service-managed WSAs have seen no review.
“WPLI has usefully forced discussion about what the fate of WSAs should be,” Cheney said. “I’m focused on introducing a bill that reflects the desires of stakeholders in our counties and will resolve WSAs in Wyoming.”
She continued, “As I advocate for this bill, I will be able to tell my colleagues, ‘This is a bill about my state for the benefit of my constituents.’ Then, we are more likely to get the support we need to pass the bill.”
An additional ongoing challenge comes from environmental laws that are artifacts of past administrations.
“Some fundamental pieces for natural resources reform will be taken up in the House, and I’m sure the Senate will take them up, as well,” Cheney said, listing reform to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) as top priorities. “We want to take advantage of this moment and be in a situation where reforms will last through future administrations, as well.”
While challenges are ever-present, Cheney commented, “I’m really honored to be working in Washington for the people of Wyoming.”
“It’s hugely important to make sure that my colleagues from the East who don’t have any experience with or understanding of the impact of these regulations have on Wyomingites,” she added. “We’ll continue to work really hard on these issues for the people of Wyoming.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.